Friday, 4 April 2014

Newsletter From The European Parliament Friday 4 April 2014 - Sir Graham Watson MEP

Brussels highlights this week included visits from China's President Xi Jin-ping, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-mun and the heads of state and government of many African countries who were in town for the EU-Africa summit. Xi Jin-ping said little in public but reports suggest that talks on an investment agreement went well (since a few trade disputes have recently been solved) and common ground was found on issues such as the Ukraine and how to mitigate climate change.

While China's President met only the Presidents of the European Council, Parliament and Commission and their entourages, the UN Sec Gen also held a much wider session to which I was invited. He spoke of the global climate change summit he will host September to stress the need for 'transformative collective action', saying that the short term pressures of democratic politics are hampering effective action and stressing 'you cannot negotiate with nature'. He hopes a draft of a new global convention against climate change can be agreed at the UNFCCC in Lima this December and a convention signed at the Paris UNFCCC in 2015. The publication of a report on Monday morning by the International Panel on Climate Change, studying the impact of climate change region by region and warning of the increasing likelihood of 'serious, extended and irreversible impacts' provided a sober setting for his visit. I was among a small group of MEPs who met the EU's climate change commissioner over supper on Monday to discuss it.

On Tuesday I welcomed visitors from Cornwall Council and was interviewed by BBC Radio Cornwall, who had come to Brussels to present from the European Parliament their daily breakfast news programme. I chaired a cross-party conference on Freedom of Information at which we pleaded for progress on the Access to Documents law whose adoption I oversaw in 2001 and which goes still largely unrespected. On Wednesday I went head to head against UKIP's Roger Helmer MEP in a debate preceding a showing of the Clegg-Farage debate and then waited around in Parliament until almost midnight to be able to condemn in the chamber the recent serious incursions by Spanish naval vessels into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.

Parliament had a heavy plenary session on Wednesday and Thursday, starting to clear the decks before the election campaign. My recommendation on a coherent EU broadcasting policy was adopted; more importantly we voted to abolish all mobile phone and data roaming charges by December 2015, to ensure neutrality on the internet, to limit motor vehicle noise, to regulate credit card fees and - to my dismay - to approve a deal between national governments which will delay the introduction of emissions charging for intercontinental flights until a possible global deal in 2016 at the earliest. We also approved preferential trade agreements for the Ukraine.

Finance ministers met in Athens this week with the predictable agenda about which I write so often in these newsletters. They reached agreement on the third and final tranche of aid to Greece to help it consolidate its nascent economic recovery. They also sent a clear message to France to get its financial house in order, saying the country can expect no more leniency.

The 28 agriculture ministers reached agreement on the budget for the promotion of farm produce: this will rise from €60 million at present to €200 million in 2020. National governments will have to contribute between 15 and 25% of the cost of this advertising. The agreement is likely to be approved by MEPs on 7 April.

I was in Bristol this morning for BBC radio, in Taunton at lunchtime with the Federation of Small Businesses and will be in Somerton & Frome and Bath constituencies tonight and tomorrow.

I still have some way to go to raise enough funds to secure re-election in May. If you can help with a donation, however small, please find the DONATE button at or send a cheque to SW England Liberal Democrats at The Liberty, Old Kelways, Langport TA10 9SJ.


Sir Graham Watson
Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar